Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Charles Gaines' "Manifestos"

Exhibition Title: all of this or nothing
Individual Artist: Charles Gaines
Location: Hammer Museum + LAXART, Los Angeles, California
Dates: January 30 - April 24, 2011
Curators: Douglas Fogle & Anne Ellegood

all of this or nothing at the Hammer Museum is the sixth series of its invitational biennial, showcasing Los Angeles based and international artists, all of which are either emerging or established. The participating 14 artists are Karla Black, Charles Gaines, Evan Holloway, Sergej Jensen, Ian Kiaer, Jorge Macchi, Dianna Molzan, Fernando Ortega, Eileen Quinlan, Gedi Sibony, Paul Sietsema, Frances Stark, Mateo Tannatt and Kerry Tribe.

The premise of all of this or nothing is for the participating artists to explore fundamental questions about the experiences of existence in the world we live in, for art’s potential to reveal the mysterious and the magical though the use of various mediums; painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, sound, performance, and the moving image. One of the standouts is Charles Gaines, and his work, “Manifestos.”

The magical work of Charles Gaines, Manifestos, 2008 is a multimedia installation of four thin flat screen television panels, each sitting atop medium density fiber board pedestals, with each flat screen panels scrolling manifestos, along with musical score drawings from the Internationalist Socialist Congress’ Socialist Congress (1917), the Situationist International’s Conscious Changes (1961), the Black Panther Party’s Black Panther (1966), and the Zapatista Army of National Liberty’s Zapatista (1993), all manifestos dedicated to the human rights and social necessity to freedom, as well as the personal power in self-determination.

Upon entering the gallery, I noticed four flat screen televisions on podiums, along with two speakers to the left and to the right the screens. The installation also included four framed musical drawings/scores of the manifestos, each measuring 62 1/2” x 45 1/16,” made with graphite on paper, as each disparate components arrangement define in the gallery space as clean, meticulous and simplistic in its organization. Once ensconced in the gallery, this installation began its magic with the left screen scrolling text from the first manifesto, accompanying it is a piano quintet from the musical score made from it.

One cannot help but think of Richard Serra’s piece, Television Delivers People, 1973:


with its scrolling text, and accompanying elevator music about the psychological manipulation of advertisements on television, and the subliminal message from elevator music, on how Americans are controlled and brainwashed into being consumerist by buying things that they don’t need. Though different from Gaines,’ both works do raise the consciousness of the viewer.

Gaines composed each of the manifestos into musical scores, as each letter corresponds to its musical note, e.g., the letter ‘e’ from its respective manifesto corresponds to the musical note of ‘E,’ and when a letter didn’t correspond to a musical note, he uses a pause note. With the first manifesto/score finished, the second screen begins with a different scroll text, accompanying by a new piano quintet, and so on, and so forth with the third and fourth screen/manifesto. Once completed, the scrolled text is shown again on the flat screen with its respective manifestos, along with a cacophony of sounds from each of its scores. With this resonance of sounds, it is truly a work of art that ignites thought, contemplation and reflection from its melodious and harmonious scores.

Would art, then, have the capacity to cause social change in our world, or is it a pipedream to even consider this?




Charles Gaines: Studio Visit – November 2010


Douglas Yee

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